Our View: Saying farewell to community icons

Smith -
Edwards -
Kohut -

To say that only the good die young is only half true.

Over the past few months, the Wyoming Valley has tearfully bade farewell to several local luminaries who lived full, rich lives and left behind legacies of hard work, great accomplishments and true generosity of spirit.

In that sense, anyone who is good always dies too young, whether 18 or 80.

This week we lost Ruth K. Smith, the longtime real estate professional whose life is celebrated on today’s front page.

A fun-loving mother of three who was ease in any setting, Smith “loved striking up conversations with strangers only to walk away as friends,” daughter Ruthie Hollander told reporter Bill O’Boyle.

One of those instant friends was businessman Bob Tambur.

“What she did, building her real estate company is remarkable,” Tambur said. “And she did it through hard work, humor and enthusiasm. Ruth was a very special person.”

Perhaps the greatest line we have read in a long time, friend Dawn Gaudino said Smith loved Manhattan — the city and the drink.

As Hollander put it, “She had an incredible zest for life, which is what makes it so hard to imagine a world without her.”

In that spirit, we raise our glasses to you, Ruth.

We also raise a toast to Linda Kohut. Employed as director of community services by the Area Agency on Aging — Luzerne and Wyoming Counties, for more than 40 years, the Pittston resident passed away Aug. 19 at age 61.

Her obituary stated that she dedicated her life to the rights of animals, the elderly and children and that she was involved in many community activities too numerous to mention.

“She cared and responded to the needs of any creature or human, especially the needs of her brother, Frank ‘Butch’ Kohut,” the obituary stated.

We also remember Durland Edwards, 87, who was residing in Tunkhannock when he died Sept. 2.

A native of Luzerne, Edwards drove his 1936 Ford Phaeton, dubbed “The Spirit of Wilkes-Barre,” in The Great American Race for several years back in the 1980s.

As O’Boyle put it, Edwards “was always engaging and he always had a good tale to tell of his time on the road. You could tell he enjoyed every second of the event and he was proud to represent his home area.”

Edwards was a founder of the Gents Motor Club and a member of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Timing Association, which ran the drag races at the Forty Fort Airport, and loved to restore vintage cars.

Last month we lost Dr. George Moses, a renowned local surgeon who dedicated his life to bettering the community.

Moses, 81, had sponsored many youth teams and basketball tournaments. He was a fixture at local athletic events and supported many organizations during his lifetime.

In June, Frank Henry, chairman emeritus of The Martz Group and a noted philanthropist, died at the age of 85.

Several long-term employees of The Martz Group got together in the following days to talk about their leader. It was difficult for them to speak of “Mr. Henry” in the past tense, but they each eloquently told of how he had touched their lives in very special ways.

Amid the doom and gloom that are an integral part of reporting the news, telling the stories of folks like these is simultaneously very hard and very easy.

It’s hard because we knew many of them personally, and we share in the grief of those who loved and respected them.

It’s easy because the good works they did leave behind a wealth of grateful friends and family willing to share happy memories. They also leave behind a model that many will continue to emulate.

The Valley with a Heart is alive and well.

— Times Leader